Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.
KANSAS CITY, MO. -- The first of umpteen All-Star voting updates arrived today, and Joe Mauer ranked third among AL catchers, behind the Rangers’ Mike Napoli and the Orioles’ Matt Wieters. The totals went: Napoli (1,224,565), Wieters (713,469) and Mauer (637,364).
No other Twin was listed among the leading vote-getters as his position.
Mauer was baseball’s leading vote getter just two years ago. This year, he’s made 25 starts at catcher, 15 at DH and 11 at first base, and he’s got a very solid .826 OPS. But he’s got a sprained right thumb now, and he’s not in the lineup again tonight.
The Twins are facing soft-tossing lefthander Bruce Chen, so Manager Ron Gardenhire made some changes to his starting nine. Darin Mastroianni, a righthanded hitter, is getting the start over Revere in right field. Drew Butera is catching, with Ryan Doumit at DH, and Alexi Casilla is on the bench, with Trevor Plouffe starting at third base and Jamey Carroll at second.
Francisco Liriano is on the mound for the Twins. Was his outing against Oakland last Wednesday a mirage? The result of facing a woefully bad lineup? The Twins have their fingers crossed that the lefty can continue that success tonight.
Meanwhile, La Velle is churning out blog posts on the draft. Click here for updates.
Update: Mauer's thumb feels a little better today, but it's still sore, and the Twins expect him to miss the rest of this series in Kansas City. The team is off on Thursday, so they'll see where he's at on Friday.
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Darin Mastroianni, RF
3. Josh Willingham, LF
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Ryan Doumit, DH
6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
7. Brian Dozier, SS
8. Drew Butera, C
9. Jamey Carroll, 2B
Starting pitcher: LH Francisco Liriano (1-5, 7.20 ERA)
1. Alex Gordon, LF
2. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
3. Billy Butler, DH
4. Mike Moustakas, 3B
5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
6. Eric Hosmer, 1B
7. Alcides Escobar, SS
8. Jarrod Dyson, CF
9. Humberto Quintero, C
Starting pitcher: LH Bruce Chen (4-5, 4.86 ERA)
Kauffman Stadium. First pitch: 7:10 p.m. TV: FSN. Twins Radio Network
Follow along on Twitter: @JoeCStrib
Baseball's new CBA will affect the Twins' remaining three free agents differently. Here's the explanation I was just given by an industry insider:
* Michael Cuddyer -- He was a Type A free agent, and now he's in a group of players whose status has been modified to help increase their value. Assuming the Twins offer him arbitration on Wednesday and he declines, teams no longer have to worry about surrendering their first-round draft pick to sign him.
The Twins will still get two compensation picks. But let's say the Phillies sign him: The Phillies would not lose their first-rounder. The Twins simply would gain a first-round pick in the slot just before the Phillies pick. The Twins would also receive a pick between the first and second rounds (or sandwich round) of the draft.
* Jason Kubel -- He remains a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration Wednesday and he declines, the Twins will receive a sandwich pick if he signs with another team.
* Matt Capps -- His status changes from Type A to a modified Type B. He's not in the same boat as Kubel now, it's slightly different. Here's the key twist: The Twins don't have to offer him arbitration in order to receive a sandwich pick if he signs elsewhere. Capps benefits because teams have shied away from signing Type A free agent relievers, not wanting to part with a first-round pick.
Bottom line: The Twins weren't going to offer Capps arbitration, so now they are in position to receive four draft picks -- instead of three -- if all three of these free agents leave. Cuddyer and Capps should get better offers. The only downside for the Twins is they might have been able to re-sign Cuddyer and Capps at lower prices under the old system. But this really looks like a win-win for all involved.
Update: Major League Baseball and the MLBPA just made an announcement, confirming the above. Cuddyer is in a group of free agents with Heath Bell, Francisco Rodriguez, Kelly Johnson, Josh Willingham and Ryan Madson. Capps is in a group with Francisco Cordero, Darren Oliver, Octavio Dotel and Ramon Hernandez.
It sounds like the Phillies are determined to sign Michael Cuddyer, though I’m sure at some point, Cuddyer’s agent, Casey Close, will ask the Twins to make their final offer.
Hypothetically, let’s say the Phillies make a three-year, $35 million offer with an option for a fourth year. My gut tells me this is the type of contract Cuddyer will ultimately sign. He can make $11 million per year (a raise from his $10.5 million salary this year), and the option could be for another $11 million with a $2 million buyout.
Keep in mind, Cuddyer’s camp reached out to the Twins last offseason hoping to work out a contract extension. The Twins weren’t interested at the time. In July, when the Twins finally made an offer, it was for two years, $16 million. So Cuddyer could be forgiven if he simply turned his back on the Twins at this point.
If he knows he can get 3/35 from the Phillies -- again, hypothetically -- why would he take something similar from the Twins? Obviously, the Twins are the only team Cuddyer has known and he’s entrenched in this community, but when Bodog released its 2012 World Series odds last week, the Phillies were 4-to-1 favorites. The Twins were 35-to-1.
At that point, the Twins might have to outbid Philadelphia (or Boston, if the Red Sox get into the mix). All of those teams know they’d be taking on a lot of risk for a player who turns 33 in March and will be 35 in the final guaranteed year of this contract.
That’s why I believe if Philadelphia makes an offer in that 3/35 range, this is over. The Twins will wish Cuddyer well and collect two draft picks for losing a Type A free agent.
Unless the new CBA changes the rules -- unlikely for this year’s free agent class -- the Twins would receive the Phillies’ first-round pick next year (No. 31 overall) and another pick soon after between the first and second rounds. Remember, the Twins have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, so this would give them four of the first 60-65 picks, as they continue trying to bolster their farm system.
How would they replace Cuddyer?
They could turn their attention to re-signing Jason Kubel. They’d miss Cuddyer’s righthanded bat -- especially after trading Delmon Young to Detroit -- but when they’re healthy, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Kubel have proven they can thrive in the 3-4-5 spots.
After Kubel, the free agent corner outfield options start to look a little thin (Josh Willingham, Ryan Ludwick, Cody Ross, Carlos Beltran, Magglio Ordonez, etc.). In house, the Twins have Rene Tosoni and Joe Benson, but both need more time at Triple-A. Some think the weak free agent market will lead to a robust trade market, and maybe the Twins could find a cheaper solution for right field, allowing them to spend more on starting pitching.
Quick thought: If the Phillies sign Cuddyer, maybe they’d make John Mayberry available in a trade. The righthanded hitter batted .273/.341/.513 last year at age 27, while making just $414,000, and cut down dramatically on his strikeout rate. His OPS+, which factors in league and park averages, was 130 (Cuddyer’s was 121), and Mayberry has played all three outfield positions.
Life will go on for the Twins if Cuddyer leaves. They'd miss his clubhouse presence and versatility immensely, but they must have known that during the season, when their best offer was for about half of what Cuddyer is likely to get on the free agent market.
The official word won't come until after tonight's 11 p.m. deadline, but all indications are that Carl Pavano, Orlando Hudson and Jesse Crain will decline arbitration offers from the Twins.
Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman reported (via Twitter) that Hudson will decline, and people familiar with the discussions have told me the Pavano and Crain decisions are practically no-brainers.
This would put the Twins in position to gain four extra picks in next June's amateur draft if those players sign elsewhere. Declining arbitration would not prevent those players from re-signing with the Twins, however.
Pavano is a Type A free agent, so the Twins would gain two high draft picks if he leaves (including a potential first-round pick from the team that signs him). He's arguably the top free agent starting pitcher on the market behind Cliff Lee, especially now that Jorge De La Rosa re-signed with the Rockies for three years, $32 million. Pavano, who turns 35 in January, wants to return to Minnesota, but it's uncertain if they'll meet his expected three-year asking price.
Crain and Hudson are Type B free agents. If either leaves, the Twins get an extra pick between the first and second rounds of next June's draft.
Crain likely has his pick of multi-year offers, and he had to be thrilled when fellow righthanded reliever Joaquin Benoit signed his three-year, $15.5 million deal with Detroit. Crain is young (28), he's cheap ($2 million last year), he won't cost a team a draft pick, and he's coming off a good season (with a 1.06 ERA between May 20 and Sept. 27).
Hudson, who turns 33 in December, has played for three teams in the past three years (Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Twins) and has gone his entire career without a multi-year deal. Offering him arbitration seemed risky for the Twins, especially now that they have exclusive negotiating rights with Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. If Hudson wanted to stick the Twins with a $6 million tab for next season, he could, simply by taking arbitration.
I haven't confirmed that Hudson and the Twins had an unwritten agreement that he would decline. We know Hudson had language in his contract that would have prevented the Twins from offering arbitration if he was a Type A free agent. (Type A status hurts players like him because teams hesitate to lose a draft pick by signing them.)
Why do teams make these unwritten agreements (see Trevor Hoffman/Brewers and Javier Vazquez/Yankees)? Even if Hudson wanted to formally extend the same courtesy to the Twins -- for example, "You guys won't offer me arbitration if I'm a Type A, and I promise to decline arbitration if I'm a Type B" -- players can't include such language in their contracts.
The union apparently views this as a slippery slope, where teams might try to entice players to accept other concessions -- for example, "Player X agrees to salary Y but agrees to give up Z in meal money."
These unwritten Type B agreements technically don't cost anyone anything. No team loses a draft pick. The compensatory pick is simply added to the supplemental round. If anybody had a complaint it would be the teams picking high in the draft, as their second-round picks get pushed behind the sandwich picks.
It's an imperfect system, but to me, the bigger issue is the way players get designated Type A and Type B (MLBTradeRumors.com's explanation here). Players are grouped together by positions (1B, OF and DH in one group, SS, 2B and 3B in another, while relievers are given their own category) and rated based on their performances over the previous two years. That's how Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe (starting position players for the World Series champion Giants) become Type B free agents, while Matt Guerrier and Grant Balfour are Type A's.
Note: The Twins declined to offer arbitration last week to free agents Guerrier, Jon Rauch (Type B) and Brian Fuentes (Type B), so the team won't receive any draft pick compensation if they leave.
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